Finnish filmmaker Renny Harlin, was once the biggest action director in Hollywood. Getting his start directing 1988’s “A Nightmare On Elm Street 4: The Dream Master”, Harlin became an action movie warhorse. Directing 1990’s “Die Hard 2”, “Cliffhanger”, “The Long Kiss Goodnight”, “Deep Blue Sea” and “Driven”. Harlin nearly lost his career after directing, the critical and box office failure “Cutthroat Island” that bankrupted an entire film studio back in 1995. Renny Harlin has made some great movies, some mediocre and some real stinkers.
The stinkers led to a steady, years long decline in the U.S. for Renny Harlin, who eventually whisked himself away to China in the mid 2010s. It was there Harlin found himself far more embraced than in the United States. After directing the Jackie Chan and Johnny Knoxville “Midnight Run” inspired action comedy “Skiptrace” in 2016. It was the first of his Chinese co-productions that made his move to the east permanent, he even founded his own film production company in China. His second China production was the videogame adaptation “Legend of the Ancient Sword” that didn’t perform so great. But his third “Bodies at Rest” (an all Chinese spoken thriller) holds an 80% on Rotten Tomatoes as one of his best reviewed movies.
Harlin’s newest film, “The Misfits” is his first American production since 2014’s “The Legend of Hercules” (one of his aforementioned stinkers). “The Misfits” stars the always reliable Pierce Brosnan as Richard Pace (also an executive producer), a career criminal with a specialty in collecting expensive watches. His schemes have caught the attention of The Prince (Rami Jaber), who’s a member of The Misfits, a team of crooks who live by a Robin Hood code, only taking cash and goods from the corrupt to help the poor.
Pace meets master of disguise Ringo (Nick Cannon), demolitions expert Wick (Mike Angelo), and feminist warrior Violet (Jamie Chung), offered a shot to join The Misfits, who are targeting terrorist leader Abu (Mansoor Alfeeli) by going after a stash of gold bars he’s hidden in a Middle Eastern prison run by Schultz (Tim Roth). Accepting the gig, Pace soon realizes his daughter, Hope (Hermione Cornfield), is masterminding the mission, with The Misfits sent to the county of Jazeristan, figuring out a way to infiltrate the prison while Schultz is one step behind, looking to protect a fortune used to fund terrorism.
Forever one of my favorites, Brosnan has played the suave gentleman thief throughout his career in “The Thomas Crown Affair” and “After The Sunset”. Renny Harlin’s film uses Brosnan’s screen persona, charisma, suaveness and style to perfection. Harlin’s movie demonstrates that Pierce Brosnan is a true movie star who can take any material and add his own brand charisma. It’s great to see Brosnan back on screen in his first leading role since 2018’s “The Spinning Man”. Playing Pace is the type of role that Brosnan excels at and he’s what makes “The Misfits” a winner. While the great Tim Roth (“Reservoir Dogs”) shows up to collect his paycheck as the sniveling baddie , but he doesn’t contribute much given his limited screentime.
Nick Cannon is the narrator and comic relief as a grab bag of alternate personas can be great fun. The unfortunate thing about his narration, is that he tells us (even sometimes stating the obvious) instead of showing us and because of that Harlin breezes through details, cutting off viewers’ emotional investment in the characters. Things come too easily to them, without a deep enough explanation for why that might be.
Renny Harlin is a master craftsman when it comes to action films and once again he delivers a visceral slice of slick looking cinema. Harlin has fun with the films location setting by making it a futuristic and modern Abu Dhabi. It glistens like a dream world where the taxis that pick you up at the airport are all Lamborghinis and beautiful women walk cheetahs in hotel lobbies.
“The Misfits” is the most fun Renny Harlin has had as a filmmaker. It’s his attempt at an “Oceans Eleven” ensemble heist comedy and while it’s not as perfect as “Oceans Eleven”. Harlin’s “The Misfits” is still an entertaining endeavor thanks to the effortlessly suave lead performance by Pierce Brosnan and his winning supporting ensemble.
“The Misfits” is pure unadulterated entertainment and Renny Harlin, doesn’t try to let it be anything other than that. Harlin’s visual style is, as always appealing and he knows how to create a frenetic pace. But his skill as a filmmaker proves that “The Misfits” might not be on the level of his classic 90’s actioners, but it still manages to be an entertaining ninety minutes.
GRADE: ★★★☆☆ (3 out of 5)